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Fuel prices hit trucking

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

STATEWIDE In the words of Oregon Trucking Association president Bob Russell, state truckers are “painfully” grappling with soaring diesel prices.

In the first week of June, the average price for diesel on the West Coast was $4.87 per gallon, nearly $2 more than a year ago. California is the priciest, at just over $5 per gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The price increases hit small and independent big-rig truck operators especially hard because their profit margins are already slim. It takes $1,500 on average to fill up a truck now, Russell says, costing operators hundreds more dollars each time at the pump.

Current troubles in the overall economy equate to a “double whammy” for truckers, too, Russell says. There’s less demand for product shipping, which means less business for truckers.

Among his 784 members, Russell says truckers who haul logging and forest products are being hit the hardest. That business has dropped 50% from the same time last year.  With others, business has declined by up to 25%.

Russell says only a handful of his members so far have been forced out of business because of fuel prices. But nationwide in the first quarter of this year, the American Trucking Association reports that more than 900 operators have shut down, up from 385 last year.

At Portland-based Fleet Truck Sales, sales are down from this time last year, says Rick Vasquez, a sales representative for the company. He sees some silver lining, though, because as more operators go under, there’s more freight to be hauled for remaining operators.  

“Freight’s still gotta move, and the cost is going to be passed on,” Vasquez says.

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